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Fire in southern California threatening another city

The so-called Thomas fire is only 15 percent contained, now threatening the city of Santa Barbara and the nearby coastal town of Carpinteria, and is on track to become one of the worst wildfires in California history (AFP Photo/MARK RALSTON)

Ojai (United States) (AFP) - A fierce wildfire raged on north of Los Angeles Sunday, threatening other towns after already charring vast swaths of land, but other blazes were largely contained after burning for days.

The so-called Thomas fire is only 15 percent contained, now threatening the city of Santa Barbara and the nearby coastal town of Carpinteria, and is on track to become one of the worst wildfires in California history. It has already destroyed 600 structures and scorched 173,000 acres (70,000 hectares), the authorities say.

"Praying for my town. Fires closing in. Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now," actor Rob Lowe, who lives in Santa Barbara, wrote on Twitter.

A photo posted by Santa Barbara police on Sunday morning showed a wall of flames several yards (meters) high very close to buildings in Carpinteria.

Evacuation orders were issued overnight for some parts of Carpinteria close to Los Padres National Forest, where fire was raging.

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Conditions remained very dry in southern California, according to the National Weather Service, but strong winds that have fueled the fires for much of the week have eased significantly.

It said "critical fire weather conditions will wane Sunday night" but that dangers would persist through most of the coming week.

"Firefighters continue to improve and increase the containment lines," helped by the weather, said the state agency Calfire.

At least five other blazes in southern California are now largely contained, Calfire said.

After a five-day siege, some Californians were finally able to return home to inspect the damage wrought by the wildfires, which together have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee and destroyed more than 850 structures, including multimillion-dollar mansions.

Cindy Nava, from the town of Sylmar, was one of those returning home -- or to what once was her home.

"Oh, my God, there's nothing, nothing, nothing," she sobbed, according to the Univision website. "What are we going to do?"

Despite the intensity of the fires that raged on multiple fronts -- stretching from areas north of Los Angeles down to the San Diego region -- authorities have reported only one fatality.

US President Donald Trump has issued a state of emergency for California, authorizing the release of federal funds.

The week's infernos capped California's deadliest year ever for wildfires. More than 40 people died in October when fires swept through the state's wine-producing counties north of San Francisco.